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Pakistan 22 October 2003

Al-Qaeda number three killed reporter Daniel Pearl, says US

US government officials have told the Wall Street Journal that the third-ranking leader of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, personally murdered its reporter Daniel Pearl in February 2002. The paper said on 21 October that new secret information showed that Mohammed, the supposed mastermind of the 11 September attacks captured in Pakistan in March this year, had slit Pearl’s throat with a knife.

Many Pakistani newspapers carried the latest report but Pakistani officials said they could not confirm it. The court handling the appeal of four Islamists against their conviction for murdering Pearl cancelled its hearing on 21 October for the sixth time since last December because of the absence of defence lawyers.


Agence France-Presse reports that Raja Qureshi, the prosecutor in the trial of Daniel Pearl’s accused killers, resigned on 9 November. His resignation could be linked to the many anonymous threats he has received since the start of the trial. Qureshi has reportedly said that he will give the authorities an explanation for his resignation shortly.


One of the al-Qaeda activists arrested during the police raid in Karachi on 11 September is thought to have been involved in the assassination of Daniel Pearl, according to a statement made to the AP agency by a Pakistani official who wished to remain anonymous. The man, a Yemeni citizen, has apparently been indentified as one of Pearl’s killers by Fazal Karim, a Pakistani suspected of having taken part in the kidnapping of the journalist. If this accusation proves to be correct, it will be the first tangible proof of the involvement of al-Qaeda in the Pearl affair.


A fundamentalist suspect in Pearl’s murder was killed in Karachi on 11 September during a police operation. The man was reportedly a Yemeni sought by police in connection with the murder, a Pakistani intelligence services official said.


The Pakistani Interior Minister, Moinuddin Haider, told Agence France-Presse that police were investigating the possibility that Al Qaeda was involved in the murder of Daniel Pearl. Investigators are following this new lead after suspects told of the involvement of a man of Arab origin. "He give money to Daniel Pearl’s killers and to his kidnappers. He was behind it," said the Minister.


According to an Associated Press dispatch of 18 August, three Pakistani militants who led police to Daniel Pearl’s body have reportedly revealed new details about his murder. Quoting two unidentified Pakistani police officers, the AP said these new suspects have admitted to having played a role in the kidnapping. They also reportedly said that Pearl was killed by an Arab, probably an associate of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre, two days after Pearl had tried to escape. The Pakistani authorities have not yet charged the three new suspects, indeed, they have not even officially recognized that the three are being held. However, their allegations contradict some of the evidence presented in the trial of Sheikh Omar and the three others convicted with him, and it could influence the outcome of their appeals.


On 13 August, the Karachi high court agreed to hear an appeal by the defence against a Hyderabad court’s conviction of four men for the murder of Daniel Pearl. The court also agreed to hear a prosecution appeal for the sentence of life imprisonment given to three of the four to be changed to a death sentence. No date has yet been set for these appeal hearings.


The body of Daniel Pearl was buried in a private ceremony in Los Angeles on 11 August. The coffin containing his remains had arrived from Karachi on 8 August. "Danny will continue to inspire his family and the millions of friends and strangers who were touched by his life and death," the journalist’s family said in a statement.


According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, the authorities are holding back the information that they have arrested four new suspects believed to be the actual killers of US journalist Daniel Pearl and that Sheikh Omar and his three accomplices, already convicted in this killing, were only involved in kidnapping Pearl. Unidentified security officials reportedly told the newspaper’s reporter, Anwar Iqbal, that the four new detainees are members of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi sectarian organization. "We know that they killed Pearl but we do not want to say so yet," the sources reportedly said. "The trial was already a nightmare. Throughout the trial the suspects kept on threatening our officers. We do not want to go through this again."


A US official told the Associated Press that DNA tests carried out on the decapitated body found in Karachi on 17 May confirm that it is indeed the body of Daniel Pearl. The results of these tests have been sent to the Pakistani police.


Sheikh Omar filed an appeal with the High Court in Sind on 19 July against his conviction and sentence to death by hanging. His lawyer asked for the sentence to be quashed, describing it as "totally against the law and the facts". He asked for his client to be released, adding, "I am 100 per cent sure that I will be successful."


The three men convicted of the Murder of Daniel Pearl filed an appeal with the High Court of Sind province, asking to be acquitted for lack of evidence. Sheikh Omar’s lawyer will probably file an appeal, on his client’s death sentence, on 14 July. He already said that if the DNA tests made on Daniel Pearl’s body were conclusive, he would ask for a new trial. He said that many questions were unresolved, such as whether the three men who led the police to the body were involved in the murder.


Sheikh Omar has threatened the Pakistani authorities with reprisals. "We shall see who dies first, me or the authorities who have arranged the death sentence for me," he declared in a message read out by his lawyer. The latter also announced that his client would appeal against the sentence - a process which could take anything from five to twelve months. The Bush administration welcomed Sheikh Omar’s conviction, which it viewed as a further example of "Pakistan showing leadership in the war against terror". The US State Department said that since Sheikh Omar had been sentenced to death there was no reason for him to be extradited to the United States. The State Department does, however, retain the right to follow through on extradition if Sheikh Omar’s appeal is successful.


As the trial of the suspected murderers of the American journalist Daniel Pearl has ended, Reporters Without Borders is happy to see that impunity is not the rule in cases of such barbarism. RSF calls on the Pakistani authorities to continue their efforts in this investigation, since several suspects are still at large. Reporters Without Borders will support all initiatives by Daniel Pearl’s family an attempting to obtain extradition to the United States for the murderers, especially Sheikh Omar. RSF is sorry that journalists were not able to attend the hearings, and regrets that there remain several unresolved issues concerning the circumstances of Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder.


Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, was sentenced to death on 15 July by the Hyderabad anti-terrorist court. His three accomplices, Salman Saqib, Fahad Naseem and Sheikh Adil, were given life imprisonment. The defence said it would appeal against what it called the "unjust" decisions. One defence lawyer, Rai Bashir, said the verdict had been ordered by the Pakistani government to appease the United States and that "President Musharraf had already announced he wanted the death penalty for Omar." Saieed Sheikh said after being sentenced that his trial was "a waste of time" in the "decisive war between Islam and infidels." Steven Goldstein, vice-president of The Wall Street Journal, said the paper "continues to hope that everyone responsible for the kidnapping and murder will be brought to justice" and said the trial in Hyderabad was "one step in that direction." The media was not allowed to attend the trial or hear the verdict being read.


The trial of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil ended on 10 July. Lawyers for the defence called for the four suspects to be acquitted on the grounds of lack of evidence. The chief prosecutor called for the death penalty. The judge, Syed Ali Ashraf Shah, will announce his verdict on 15 July.


The lawyer for the main defendant began his closing on Thursday, 4 July. Abdul Waheed Katpat pointed out that the witnesses’ accounts identifying his client were unreliable, especially because of the time - three weeks - that separated them from the events. Daniel Pearl’s taxi driver told the police he had seen Pearl meeting someone after dropping him off, though he had previously told his wife, Marianne Pearl, that he did not know if anyone was waiting for him. This suggests that his previous statements to police were biased. The lawyer also pointed out that, according to the magistrate who attended the questioning of Fahad Naseem and Salman Saqib, their confessions were obtained under duress.


The father of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the main suspect, told the court on 29 June 2002 that his son had been arrested on 5 February, and not on the 13th as the police claim. This supports the theory suggested by the defence attorneys, that the four suspects were held in secret for one week before their arrest was officially announced, and that, during this time, the police were able to fabricate evidence of their guilt. The court however refused the defence request to call back to the stand Hamee dullah Memon, the officer who handled the arrest, and managers of the public television station PTV, which broadcast a story about Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh that claimed he was arrested before 13 February. The defence attorneys have decided to appeal this decision, and the trial has been suspended until 4 July while the appeal procedure is prepared.


Lawyers for the four suspects asked to see documents proving that police had secretly held their clients before being arresting them. Defense attorney Rai Bashir mentioned the existence of a police memo concerning the detention of one of the suspects, Sheikh Muhammad Adeel, dated 5 February, one week before the official announcement of their arrest. According to the suspects, this additional time allowed the police to fabricate proof of their guilt. This accusation is all the more embarrassing because the circumstances under which they were arrested have still not been made clear. In addition, Pakistani police claim to have a new suspect, Asif Ramzi, a member of a banned Sunni group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. They are offering a $50,000 reward for any information leading to his arrest.


Appearing before the court in Hyderabad, Islamic militant Sheikh Omar denied all charges brought against him. In his statement he said he had been unlawfully detained for a week before his arrest was announced on 12 February 2002. This, he said, allowed investigators time to manufacture evidence against him. The statement he made on 14 February 2002 concerning the death of journalist Daniel Pearl had not been made under oath and for this reason the Islamic militant considers that it should not be taken into account. Fahad Naseem and Salman Saquib, his two co-defendants, are said to have confessed to Sheikh Omar’s guilt under torture.


Mariane Pearl will not, in the end, give evidence at the trial of the four Islamic militants accused of murdering her husband. Chief Prosecutor Raja Qureshi gave up the attempt to get her to appear before the Court after her lawyer produced a medical certificate attesting that she was unable to travel to Pakistan. The prosecution had already abandoned the idea of calling the thirteen witnesses and suspects involved in the discovery of a body in Karachi. The DNA tests that should confirm that this is in fact Daniel Pearl’s body are still being carried out. The hearing closes on 6 June, when the court will hear the statement of the last witness, police officer Hamid Ullah Memon.


The court announced on 28 May a 72-hour adjournment of the trial. This decision follows on from a motion of the public prosecutor, who asked for authorisation to go and record the testimony of Mariane Pearl, prevented from going to Hyderabad on account of poor health. The hearings should resume on 1 June with the statements of the last witnesses, two Pakistani investigators. Also, the defence, which had obtained from the court the right to view the recording of the journalist’s murder, protested on 29 May against the postponed handing over of the video owing to the trial adjournment. According to the defence counsel, Rai Basheer Ahmed, the court was in no way empowered, in criminal proceedings such as these, to suspend the trial on its own initiative.


Citing US State Department sources, the American broadcasting channel CNN announced that initial forensic tests confirm the body found in the outskirts of Karachi on 17 May is indeed that of Daniel Pearl. An official statement will be made only once the results of DNA tests carried out in Lahore are known; these are expected this week. The body was found as a result of the questioning by Pakistani intelligence services of two members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an outlawed militant Sunni group.

As Mohsin Imam, one of Sheikh Omar’s lawyers, said, "the trial could take a new direction if the police and prosecution come up with new evidence, (...) or if the body that has been found turns out to be that of Daniel Pearl". He added however that lawyers for the defence would not be asking for an adjournment. Following the discovery of the American journalist’s body, Sheikh Omar continues to plead not guilty and denies having been in contact with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.


A dismembered body, which could be that of Daniel Pearl, has been found by investigators in the southern outskirts of Karachi, says chief investigator Mansour Mughal. This information has been confirmed by government spokesman General Rachid Qureshi, who said that the police were "quite sure" that the remains were those of the American journalist. Investigators received a tip-off about the hide-out, where Daniel Pearl was probably held, from three men who are now being questioned in connection with the affair. In the hut they found a car seat and buttons from the journalist’s shirt, which can be seen on the photographs the kidnappers sent to the press agencies. The body, which has been dismembered, was buried in the garden and covered by the jacket Daniel Pearl is shown wearing in the same photographs. It is hoped that medical tests will determine whether the remains are in fact those of Daniel Pearl.

At the close of the latest proceedings in the trial of the suspects the Chief Prosector asked for a recording of the testimony of Daniel Pearl’s wife. The police have also admitted that the man who led them to the journalist’s body may be one of the seven suspects still being sought in connection with the kidnapping and murder of the Wall Street Journal correspondent.


The trial resumed on 13 May in Hyderabad with the hearing of a graphology expert, Ghulam Akbar Jaffery. The latter is said to have supplied elements testifying to similarities in turns of phrase employed in the e-mails sent by the kidnappers and in documents written by Sheikh Omar. One of the defence counsels, Rai Bashir, however denied to the press that the expert had established such a link. The public prosecutor, Raja Qureshi, also announced that the court should decide on 14 May on the possible broadcasting of the video of the journalist’s murder. On 11 May, an FBI agent, Ronald Joseph, had produced before the court a fifty-or-so page report on the e-mails sent by the kidnappers of Daniel Pearl. Another witness, Aamir Raza Qureshi, had, as far as he is concerned, declared to the court that Daniel Pearl had met Sheikh Omar at the hotel Akbar in Rawalpindi a few days before his abduction. Lastly, judge Irum Jehangir had reported how Sheikh Omar had confessed on 14 February to be the mastermind of the abduction and had affirmed that, to his knowledge, the journalist had already been assassinated.


The trial of the four men accused of murdering Daniel Pearl has again been adjourned, to 8 May, after a short sitting, because one of the defence lawyers, Rai Bashir, was still absent. Judge Ali Ashraf Shah appointed two other lawyers to replace him.


The trial of Sheikh Omar and three of his accomplices has again been postponed, this time to 6 May. Prosecutor Raja Qureshi said that this decision was made "by mutual agreement", since three of the defense attorneys did not show up for the hearing. According to the Associated Press, the defense filed a motion with the Pakistani Supreme Court asking that the case be transferred to the Karachi Prison, where the trial initially opened.

30 April 2002

Prosecutor Raja Qureshi said that the trial of the suspects in the murder of Daniel Pearl would resume on 3 May in Hyderabab Central Prison (north-east of Karachi), and that the judge would be Ali Shraf Shah, the third to be named since this trial began. The High Court of Sindh handed down this decision on 29 April, after prosecutors filed a motion to change judges. The prosecutor had stated that members of his team had received serious telephone threats, and that plans had been made to attack the Karachi prison. A defence attorney, Abdul Waheed Katpar, considers that this is just another attempt to delay the trial.


Prosecutor Raja Qureshi said that the trial had been adjourned awaiting a decision by the High Court of Sindh on whether a new judge would be named. The court is to rule on 1 May, since defense attorneys asked for enough time to examine the prosecutor’s request.


On 25 April, judge Abdul Ghafoor Memon ordered a one-day recess in the trial because of the absence of defense attorneys, who were expressing solidarity with striking members of the Pakistani bar. Prosecutor Raja Qureshi said that he had filed a motion with the High Court of Sindh province asking that judge Memon be replace

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